Performance Reviews

360-degree reviews: We solicit anonymous input from your boss, your peers, and your subordinates. A reviewer goes through all of that information, discusses it with you, and, perhaps, shares with you documents containing parts or all of the anonymous responses.

These are remarkably helpful tools. They’re helpful, first, because you know that they’re coming. If you’re going to be evaluated by everyone in the neighborhood, then you’re more likely to be civilized and fair to everyone in the neighborhood. (“Civilized and fair” doesn’t mean “easy” or “letting others break the rules.” It means “civilized and fair.” If someone’s performance needs improving, you talk reasonably with that person about his or her weaknesses and how to improve. You don’t belittle people or scream at them, because incivility will surely come back to haunt you at 360-degree review time, and you know that 360-degree review time is lurking in your future.)

360-degree reviews are helpful because you critique others. It’s relatively easy — or, at least, routine — to be asked to critique folks situated beneath you in a hierarchy. But it’s a little different to be asked to critique folks who are situated horizontally or above you. When you’re asked to critique those people formally, it makes you think a little harder: What are those people doing right? What are they doing wrong? What information should they hear about their performance?

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Last week we discussed the art of receiving feedback from your firm. The coin of feedback has two sides — praise and criticism. You learn more from the latter than from the former. If you are a solid citizen who is committed and enthusiastic, you can learn great deal from constructive criticism. You must understand why it is given and what it means. In this week’s Career Center Summer Associate Tips Series, Lateral Link’s Frank Kimball, an expert recruiter and former Biglaw hiring partner, discusses how to best handle criticism over the summer.

Criticism is usually well-intended. Firms want you to succeed; if you are bright, well-liked, and energetic, the natural human instinct takes over. The partners running the summer program want to run a successful program. Experienced lawyers love to find new lawyers who they can bring into their groups or teams. That, in one respect, is what the summer program is all about. Criticism is not delivered in the abstract. It is delivered (1) on the spot when you have made a mistake, (2) at a quieter moment during the project when the assigning attorney has a moment to breathe, or (3) during the regular review process.

Some lawyers are just unpleasant or angry people. Usually, however, the lawyer is angry about your mistake because it disrupted his or her schedule, confused his client, screwed up an issue in a brief, or otherwise made his professional life unpleasant. The lawyer might also be angry because it was his or her fault for not providing enough instruction or sufficient oversight (but don’t you point this out). Depersonalize your reaction and learn from it. Contain your own hostility, rage, anger, and other emotional reactions. Do not head to your office in tears, vent your emotions to other summer associates, or storm off into professional oblivion. At the end of the day, run five miles or bike around the lake. Go to the gym and beat the heck out of a punching bag. Get on Above the Law and yell at Elie for a spelling mistake in one of his posts.

For more tips on handling criticism and making the most out of your summer clerkship experience, click here. For additional career insights, as well as profiles of individual law firms, check out the Career Center.

In this week’s Career Center Summer Associate Tips Series, Lateral Link’s Frank Kimball, an expert recruiter and former Biglaw hiring partner, demystifies the process of receiving feedback as a summer associate.

As a law student, you may ask yourself: “What is it about attorneys and their inability to provide quality feedback in a reasonable amount of time?” Throughout law school you will have to wait weeks and months on end before receiving your grade on even multiple choice exams. Then, you move on to your summer clerkship and wonder if every single assignment you email gets sent to a black hole where it never gets read, much less utilized. The truth of the matter is, your work is being monitored, and you are being “graded” during your summer clerkship. But unlike your professors, the attorneys you work for at your summer law firm has legitimate excuses for not providing your grades in a reasonable timeframe.

Every summer associate wants to know how well they are doing. It is a natural human emotional need. Former New York Mayor Ed Koch used to call out to reporters: “How am I doin’?” He had to wait four years for an answer. Your answer will come at the end of the summer. All feedback systems depend on structure, forms, follow through, and a decidedly unreliable human element. Every spring, hiring partners and recruiting coordinators redesign reporting lines, meeting schedules, review forms, and many other ways to coerce their lawyers to put pen to paper and write reviews. As a hiring partner I tried systems, humor, cajoling, requests just short of Fed. R. Civ. P. 30 and 45, and sitting down in a lawyer’s office and filibustering until they completed the darn form.

To learn more on how to handle the feedback provided during your summer clerkship (or lack thereof), click here to read on. For additional career insights, as well as profiles of individual law firms, check out the Career Center.

Dewey LeBoeuf LLP logo D&L DL Above the Law blog.jpgDewey & LeBoeuf has been slowly shedding people over the past few months. The firm closed down its offices and relocated attorneys from Charlotte and San Francisco. There was some forced attrition in November. The firm announced structured finance layoffs in December. And the firm laid off a significant portion of its Los Angeles associates in January.

Today, cuts have come to NYC and D.C.

The firm is not calling these cuts “layoffs.” Instead, the firm is finishing up semi-annual performance reviews and making cuts along those lines. The firm provided ATL with this statement:

Dewey & LeBoeuf maintains a semi-annual performance review process and we are currently in our year-end cycle. We do not comment on the specific outcomes of our performance review process or individual review conversations.

Some explanation about the Dewey & LeBoeuf review system, plus thoughts from tipsters, after the jump.

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